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SCG Partner Event With Council on Foundations: Politics, Policy, and Philanthropy

Friday, March 6, 2015

Council on Foundations blog post by Kim Bluitt : March 5, 2015 

An engaged group of seventy funders came together January 27 for a learning forum hosted in Los Angeles by the Council on Foundations and Southern California Grantmakers entitled, “Politics, Policy, and Philanthropy: How Your Funding Priorities Could be Impacted This Year.” The 2016 election cycle is already well underway and with it comes unique opportunities and challenges affecting the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors at the federal, state and local levels.

Sue Santa, the Council on Foundations’ Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs and Washington and DC-based Capitol Hill expert, kicked off the program with an overview of the federal landscape and examples of how philanthropy can actively support a vibrant charitable sector. Santa explained highlights of President Obama’s budget, including a 28% cap on itemized deductions and a simplification of the private foundation excise tax. She also talked about the prospects for comprehensive tax reform, including the need for foundations to pursue positive opportunities for philanthropy that are currently on the table. One immediate way for foundations to build momentum is by attending Philanthropy Week in Washington DC, March 16-20. The week offers opportunities to meet with lawmakers and staff, connect with other philanthropic advocates, visit with representatives from the Administration, and continue to learn the latest developments on Capitol Hill that impact philanthropy.

Panel moderator, Dr. Raphael J. Sonenshein, Executive Director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, challenged attendees to consider whether government is the solution or the problem. He also expressed his view that change oriented philanthropy is at stake in this current political landscape. Although the 2016 election cycle is a current focal point, he believes that the 2020 election may be more important because districts are being redrawn that might greatly impact voting outcomes.

Pete Manzo, President and CEO of United Ways of California offered insights regarding health and human services on the state level. He reminded attendees that the state is still recovering from the recession but that the budget has become more stable. A few of the current priorities that he’s identified in the legislature include: health for all, increasing finances for those with lower incomes, and access to pre-school for all. Funders can continue to address these needs while engaging in advocacy.

John Kim, Executive Director of The Advancement Project, shared opportunities for organizing and advocacy on local issues. He cited the 2012 Anaheim unrest following a police officer involved shooting and how community organizers stepped up to provide leadership. These community leaders examined the representation of elected officials in the area and the unequal distribution of resources between Anaheim Hills and the Flatlands, before invoking the California Voting Rights Act to bring about more equal representation. The James Irvine Foundation is currently working with The Advancement Project to support community efforts to achieve district-based elections. Kim encourages philanthropists to invest in engagement with local decision makers to help address local challenges.

This learning forum was the first of many monthly convenings occurring in the pacific region of California, Oregon and Washington State to address our member needs. I look forward to your continued feedback and participation.

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